By Hans Ngala, Friday February 10, 2017
Cameroon Journal, Bamenda – Leaders of the Cameroon Baptist Convention, CBC, the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, PCC and Bishops of the Bamenda Provincial Episcopal Conference (BAPEC) have jointly issued a statement on the current socio-political atmosphere in the NW and SW Regions. The declaration comes at a time many Anglophones were seeing church authorities as being complacent with Government.
The communique forwarded to The Journal dated February 9th opens by explaining that the Executive President of the CBC and the Moderator of the PCC went to meet the Archbishop of Bamenda and by Divine providence, found that the Archbishop was in session with Bishops of the Bamenda Episcopal Conference (BAPEC) and together, albeit without any intention of creating a permanent structure or association, they came up with the following statement;
“Some authorities and people have branded Church leaders in this part of the country as protagonists and promoters of the strike action…It is due to such accusations that Church leaders have been receiving anonymous threats both from those who want the stalemate to persist and those who want and immediate return from the status quo.
Mindful of the fact that all the Churches run schools, thus rendering a great service to the State and to parents whose children they educate and evangelize, Church leaders want to state unequivocally that they were neither consulted nor did they give any express consent for the initiation of the strike action or for its suspension” The statement goes further to clarify why denominational schools remain closed “The teachers’ trade unions who initiated the sit-down strike of the teachers have officially suspended the strike, but schools have not resumed. For some people, schools have not resumed because Church leaders have not asked members of their respective churches to send their children back to school. It is important to note that even Government schools, over which church leaders have no authority, have not effectively resumed in this part of the country.
It further intimates that the effective resumption of schools is the sole responsibility of parents and not the Church;
As far as confessional schools are concerned, we state that we did not at any point ask our respective schools to close and that the doors of our schools remain wide open to welcome pupils and students, when the parents bring their children.
The clergymen then get to the crux of the matter, stating categorically that the arrogance of some overbearing administrators in the likes of SW Governor Okalia Bilai and internet shutdown in the NW and SW, is exacerbating the situation;
We think that the non-resumption of schools in the NW and SW Regions is a pointer to more profound socio-political issues that need to be identified and addressed sooner than later. It is important to note that the oppressive, intimidating and unbearable attitude of some members of civil administration, such as the Governor of the SW Region, has further hardened the hearts of the common people. Furthermore, the inhumane treatment, torture, rampant arrests and the complete shutdown of the internet and consequently of businesses and services that depend on internet connection for smooth functioning, have aggravated the situation.
It ends with an appeal for frank dialogue with a view to lasting solutions;
As pastors, preachers of the Good News and mediators of social justice and peace, we earnestly appeal to the Government and the people of Cameroon for a change of heart and to engage in a meaningful and constructive dialogue. We further call on our Christians and people of goodwill to pray fervently for wisdom and understanding to seek true and lasting solutions that will guarantee justice and peace. We pray that all Cameroonians may experience the presence of the Risen Lord, the Prince of Peace, for “In His days, justice shall flourish and peace till the moon fails” (Ps.71, 72:7)
The communique is signed by Rev. Ncham Godwill, of the CBC, Rt. Rev. Fonki Samuel of the PCC, Bishop George Nkuo, President of BAPEC, Archbishop Cornelius Fontem Esua of Bamenda, Bishop Immanuel Bushu of Buea, Bishop Andrew Nkea of Mamfe, Bishop Agapitus Nfon of Kumba and Michael Bibi, Auxiliary Bishop of Bamenda.
It would be recalled that on Saturday 4th February, a report was read over state media that confessional schools alongside the teachers’ trade unions had called off the strike. The population didn’t take kindly to the announcement and most parents resolved not to send their children to school until government shows signs of good faith in resolving the issues raised and releasing all those in detention. Governor Okalia Bilai of the SW Region is reported to have in a recent meeting with education stakeholders, given them 48 hours to open their schools or face the wrath of the law. As 11th February draws even closer, tensions are high as the population plans to remain indoors, a move that if successful, will shatter what most Anglophones see as the day they went into ‘slavery’.
The Cameroon Journal got unconfirmed reports that Government may pay youths from the West Region to march in Bamenda and others from the Littoral to march in Buea for CRTV cameras. Our reporter could not immediately reach any of the religious leaders to comment further on the current state of affairs in relation to the communique they issued.